Harp Maintenance

Strings, When They Break…


• Count down from highest string, top string being no. 1. Each new octave begins with E (1st octave, 2nd octave, etc.)

• Top strings are usually nylon, middle are gut, and bottom are wire. Your string supplier should know what type based on the number.

• Lever harps: usually best to reorder from manufacturer. You can order a “mini set”: F and C + D and G from each octave. The D can also replace E and the G, A and B.

• Pedal harps: I recommend Bow Brand strings. Bow Brand Burgundy are a little less expensive (have minor visual defects) but are same quality as regular. Order from Vanderbilt Music (1.800.533.7200; www.vanderbiltmusic.com)

Harp Maintenance1

HarpMaintenance2Tying the “Bunny Ear” Knot


• Tuning key (good to keep a spare)

• Electronic tuner (buy at musical supply store or down load app; I use ClearTune)

• Nail clippers (sufficient for most string types)

• Wire cutters (necessary for pedal harp wire strings)

• Anchors (request when ordering or cut old lower gut strings into 1.5” segments)

The Factory Knot



• “Bunny Ear” knot: for mid-register strings (including gut).

• Factory knot: for upper-register strings.

• Wire strings: these are easy. Preknotted, so just string them through.


• See illustration for stringing through tuning pin.

• Wire strings will not stretch, so pull slack to a half-octave away.

• Tune up to match pitch of string below the new one. Then continue to tune up to match by the octave below.

• Play the string up and down, pull back and forth, etc. The new string will take a few days to hold pitch, so be prepared to do a little extra tuning!


• Pedal harps: tune to all flats with pedals in flat position.

• In C: tune all strings natural. Enables enharmonic glisses with B# and E#. Best for beginning students.

• In F: tune B’s flat (some tuners read A#).

• In Eb: best for more advanced lever harpists. tune B, E, and A flat.




• Tune 2-3 times daily with new harps until they hold tune. Otherwise, tune every 1-2 days.

• Play with left hand while tuning so you can hear the pitch changing.

• If pin is slipping, first push in firmly while tuning. If it still slips, tap carefully with a hammer.

You really can’t tune too much. The more you do it now, the faster you’ll be. More importantly, you’ll develop a good ear for hearing correct pitch. Playing an out-of-tune harp is no fun for you or anyone who is listening.

Taking Care of Your Harp Inside and Outside Your House


• Keep your harp away from vents, drafts, sunlight, etc. You want to keep the harp at normal room temperature.

• It is good to keep a dust cover on your harp. You don’t want direct sunlight to hit the harp; this can affect tuning and aging of the wood.

• When you finish practicing, always put all the levers down or pedals in the flat position. This puts as little tension on the string as possible.


• When packing your harp for travel, always put levers down or pedals in flat. For pedal harps fold the pedals up as well.

• Loading pedal harps in the car: either on column or with discs facing up. Never load with the discs down.

• Loading lever harps: always with levers facing up.

• It is a good idea to use a mattress in the back of your car, especially if the seats are bumpy. A sheet of foam rubber from the Army-Navy Store works great. I also made a cover for mine so it slides better and doesn’t get the mattress chewed up.

Written by Aubrey Elliott